SAE pours time, money into dirt car

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The UCM Society of Automotive Engineers B-Mod racecar in the pits at Springfield Raceway April 20. It was the third race the team competed in, and it finished in sixth place. (Photo submitted)
The UCM Society of Automotive Engineers B-Mod racecar in the pits at Springfield Raceway April 20. It was the third race the team competed in, and it finished in sixth place. (Photo submitted)

Story by JASON STRICKLAND, Sports Editor—
Getting second place in a competition can be bittersweet, and that is how UCM ended up with a dirt track racing car.
The president of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Ryan Craig, said they would spend more than $2,000 and put in hundreds of hours into building a homecoming float, and they finished in second place one year, so it was time for a new project.
“We were like, ‘Screw the parade,’” SAE member Trevor Van Horn said. “Lets do something else.”
They formed a partnership with Gator Graphics to help fund a B-Mod racecar. Co-owners Dean Willie and James McMillin handle the driving duties.
“I think they have over 20 years of driving experience each, so our car is in good hands,” Craig said.
The funding is split between Gator Graphics and what SAE receives from donations.
“It seems like every meeting we always have a car to work on,” Van Horn said. “Like a faculty member or a student will bring their car over and we will work on it for a donation.”
Craig stopped by Gator Graphics one day with a friend who wanted numbers put on his racecar, and Craig saw all of Dean’s trophies on display.
“He said he wanted to do a dirt track car when he was in SAE, but they didn’t want to at the time,” Craig said. “So he told me he would definitely be interested in helping us out.”
The car’s number is a combination of Dean’s 68 and McMillin’s 8M racing numbers.
The group has been competing at West Plains Motor Speedway, Valley Speedway and Springfield Raceway, and plans to keep going as long as there is money.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to cost about $200 a weekend to race,” Craig said. “And that’s if we don’t tear anything up.”
The team finished 36th at West Plains to start the season, and got sixth at Springfield and ninth at Grain Valley in the other races.
“A West Plains we did really well with what we had,” Van Horn said. “We were beating $30,000-$40,000 cars. Ours is only like $6,000.
That event began with the transmission going out, so some members who were in Warrensburg grabbed a backup.
“We all had the same class, so we took our test, ran over to Gator Graphics, picked up the other transmission and threw it in the back of my car and hauled it down to West Plains,” Van Horn said.
But it needed work before it could be used.
“We went down there and did an automatic to a manual conversion in a hotel parking lot,” Craig said.
On April 20 at Springfield, Willie won the B-Feature to get into the A-Feature.
“I was tickled to death whenever I saw it leading the whole race during the B-feature,” Van Horn said. “That was awesome.”
Last weekend’s race at Valley Speedway got rained out, and the team plans on racing there Saturday if it doesn’t get rained out as well.
The process of building the car began in late December. They got support from Sure Coat in Sedalia, Mo. to get the car powder coated for free in January.
“Then in February and March we just worked on it like crazy trying to get it done,” Craig said. “It was pretty intense to try and get it done in that short period of time. We ran our finances pretty low. That’s where Dean and James came in and helped out.”
Before the season, the schedule was going to class and then going to work on the car.
“There were weeks where it was like a part time job,” Craig said. “You’d probably have 20 or more hours a week easy. I was scared to death we weren’t going to get it done.”
“After the car was done, pretty much I think we go over there and work on it on Tuesday and Thursday nights unless the car is really torn up.”
The goal is to get a victory in an A-Feature.
“We definitely want to win a feature,” Craig said. “I’m confident we will win a feature at some point.”
Craig said they plan on having the car in the homecoming parade in the fall and possibly display it at auto shows, parts stores and elementary schools.